Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Psalm 23 - Our Great Shepherd!

If you grew up in a church, at some point you may have memorized the 23rd Psalm. It is probably the best known passage of the Bible. As we have been studying Jesus’ claim to be the Good and Great Shepherd in John 10, I just feel compelled to look at this wonderful psalm of David. And I choose the King James version, because it’s probably the one we all memorized:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

We had a great Christian speaker, Steve Farrar, at our church about a year ago, and he spoke on this psalm, which he called the “Cliff Notes” of Christianity.   :)  Since God calls us “sheep” in His Word more than 200 times, Farrar reminded us of the characteristics of sheep. Besides being stupid (they’ve been known to follow each other over a cliff), they are timid, skittish, and defenseless. You never here of a sports team called “The Sheep!” “Go Sheep, beat the Sharks!” :) Sheep have no natural defense device. They don’t have claws, they aren’t large, they have no stinger, they can’t growl or roar. In fact, don’t you think their bleating sounds more like whining? Furthermore, Farrar pointed out that sheep are dirty and cannot make themselves clean. No wonder God refers to us as His sheep!

The 23rd Psalm reminds us that our Shepherd takes care of our every need. We lack nothing! If there is something you want that you do not have, it’s likely because the LORD knows it would not be good for you at this time. Not having it is for your own good!

One of the reasons I love this psalm is that it takes me to a peaceful place. When I read it, it feels like I’m taking a deep cleansing breath that relaxes me. The imagery is so restful: green pastures, still waters, restoring my weary soul. It’s interesting that our Shepherd has to MAKE us lie down in green pastures, because otherwise we’d keep wandering. We love to fill our lives with busyness, don’t we? We give lip service to hating our fast pace, and yet we keep running on that treadmill! Sometimes the Shepherd has to force us to rest. In fact, He may bring something into our lives that gives us no choice but to rest.

Our Shepherd LEADS us all the way into the places HE wants us to go - into paths of righteousness. These paths aren’t always lined with flowers - sometimes they seem downright scary - even into the shadow of death. But He NEVER leaves us! He doesn’t push us from behind, but goes on before us. We need not fear EVER!!! He promised that He would NEVER , EVER leave us. Do you believe that? His tools of discipline (rod) and rescue (staff) should comfort us. The Father disciplines those He loves! If He sees us going in the wrong direction, He will pull us back.

If we are being persecuted, we can relax knowing that our Shepherd will defend us before our enemies. We need not fight our battles - He will do it! In fact, He will honor us before our enemies. With so many wonderful reminders, no wonder David said, “My cup runneth over!”

As our Shepherd leads us through this life, we are guaranteed that mercy and goodness are bringing up the rear. No matter what trials we face, we can always look ahead in confidence, knowing that Jesus’ sheep WILL dwell in the house of the LORD -  FOREVER! Amen!


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